Educators face a double challenge with reading assignments, for kids at any age. They need to get their pupils to read, and then they need the kid sto remember what they read.
A research team has recently found one way to boost retention: make reading harder.
They didn’t have to use a lot of fifty cent words or through in references to Foucault to keep things challenging. Changing the font in a simple assignment from Arial (a clear, easy font) to Comic Sans (pictured here) made their study subjects work harder to read it.
The volunteers who got the harder font learned more from what they read.
After trying this trick with paid adult volunteers, the research team tested it out in a high school. Their results were awesome:
Students given the harder-to-read materials scored higher in their classroom assessments than those in the control group. This was the case across a range of subjects – from English, to Physics to History.
The gains were substantial: 14% better retention among readers who got grayscaled, difficult fonts instead of the classic, easy-to-read ones. If it continues to work with students, this could be a small Holy Grail of education reform: a fast, cheap and easy way to improve learning for students in a wide variety of subjects.
It doesn’t require any retraining of teachers, any extra school hours, any expensive equipment. Just a more challenging typeface.
Don’t expect to see this shift in your newspapers – or hear at Babble – anytime soon. People don’t like reading difficult fonts. If it’s too difficult, or they’re not required to cypher it out, many will just give up in frustration and look for an easier read.
What do you think? Is this a breakthrough for teaching, or a trivial distraction?
Photo: public domain
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